EDUCATION officials were accused yesterday of creating a crisis in primary education. They were said to have dashed thousands of teachers' hopes of getting a job suitable for their qualifications. The Professional Teachers' Union said the Government had suggested in 1993 that primary teachers with degrees would receive more recognition and better pay. But Governor Chris Patten's decision to create 360 graduate posts for primary teachers in the past two years and a further 300 in the next school term was far from enough. The union said the Education and Manpower Branch had underestimated the number of potential applicants and failed to regulate the supply of graduate teachers. It estimated there were about 2,000 primary teachers with degrees. Graduate teaching posts carry a pay differential of several thousand dollars. Another 480 teachers will graduate from the new degree in education programme next year, and the number of graduates will rise by 1,000 a year. More than 5,000 qualified teachers could be left disappointed by the year 2000 if the number of graduate posts continued to increase so slowly, said union vice-president Au Pak-kuen. Union chairman and legislator Cheung Man-kwong said the shortage was an 'explosive crisis' which would devastate teachers' morale. 'I've never seen an education policy with such a good intention at the beginning ending up being blamed by everyone,' he said. The union accused the Education Department of keeping the assessment process secret and refusing to address some applicants' complaints. Teachers have complained to the union that 53 of the 180 places had been left vacant while their applications had been rejected. The union said the need for aided school teachers to seek nomination by their boss for graduate posts had created personnel problems because there was only one place for each school in the sector. There were also teachers who had graduated from the same degree course at the same college or university at the same time, but had different results in their applications. The department has said the uneven distribution of graduate teachers and the lack of relevance of the applicant's qualifications to primary education were some of the reasons for the failures. While officials are now reviewing the policy, Mr Cheung hoped the quota of posts could be increased faster. Half the territory's primary teachers should eventually have graduate status. The union also wants the department to scrap the nomination system, give a clear explanation to unsuccessful applicants and set up a fair and open assessment system.